ELIZABETHTON — City councils frequently must make difficult and divisive decisions, but there did not appear to be anything difficult in two topics the Elizabethton City Council considered during a workshop session on Thursday.
The discussions were made more attractive for council members because each of the two topics included a net savings in expenditures.
One of the topics was a discussion on a new option the Tennessee Valley Authority was offering in its wholesale rate structure. The city’s electric rate consultant, Chris Mitchell, recommended taking advantage of TVA’s new modified time of use option, which he said should save the city $34,000 in wholesale costs.
The second topic of discussion was on making some changes to the project to rebuild the system’s substations, which is nearing its final stage. Engineering consultant Gary McGill recommended five changes to the project that would have the combined impact of saving the city $30,000.
On the TVA wholesale rate, Mitchell said he has analyzed the Elizabethton Electric Department’s hourly demand patterns and found it would be advantageous to make the switch to TVA’s new modified plan. A decision must be made by April 1.
Mitchell congratulated City Council members on taking his advice last year in going to the TVA time of use option that enabled the city to save $580,000 this year.
The city’s current plan with TVA is based on when the electricity is purchased. During hours of peak demand, TVA sells the electricity at a higher price than during other hours. Under the modified plan, the price is even steeper for electricity purchased during peak hours and even cheaper for electricity used during off-peak hours.
Peak hours are 5-11 a.m. Monday through Friday from December through March and from 1-9 p.m. Monday through Friday during June through September. Mitchell said he recommended the modified plan because the Elizabethton Electric Department’s pattern of demand showed it purchased more electricity during non-peak hours than the average utility and purchased less electricity during peak hours than most utilities, resulting in an opportunity to benefit from the new rate.
The council will vote on making the switch during its next regular meeting.
In the second topic, McGill presented five sets of changes to the systemwide substation rebuilding program. The biggest savings will come from indefinitely postponing the construction of a transmission line from the Milligan Substation to the West Substation. Recent surveys of the power needs of the western areas of the Elizabethton Electric System show the needs can be served by the recent construction of the new transmission line from Hampton Substation to the Hatcher Lane Substation, along with upgrades in both substations. Postponing the Milligan-West line will save $211,000.
The largest additional expenditure from the recommended changes would be to extend the fiber optic connections from the Elizabethton Electric System office to the four core substations at Primary, Elizabethton District, West Elizabethton, and Watauga Industrial substations.
The addition of fiber optic connections will allow the system to quickly detect and clear transmission line circuit faults. It will also allow the system to remove the unreliable ground switches that are currently in use. Ground switches are no longer allowed by TVA on new systems because the ground switches cause such stress on the system during a fault.
In the other changes discussed, McGill said there were savings realized during the construction of the Hatcher Lane, Watauga Industrial and Okolona substations because they were constructed at the same time, rather than separately as had been originally planned. These resulted in savings of around $46,000.
McGill recommended an expenditure of an additional $54,600 for voltage regulator improvements for the West Elizabethton substation, the only substation without automatic voltage regulators.
Another $20,000 was recommended to be added to the Hampton Substation improvements to cover redesign of earthwork grading and reconfiguration as a result of enlarging the site.